November 30, 2021

4 to 12 years in fatal stabbing

Kevin Conlon/contributing photographer

Andrew Pilcher speaks to the family of Damien Grant prior to his sentencing in Cortland County Court Thursday. Pilcher received a four-to-12-year prison sentence for killing Grant in downtown Cortland in August. In February, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Damien Grant’s family leaned on each other for support, wiped each other’s tears and sobbed heavily throughout the Thursday afternoon sentencing of the man who killed Grant last year in downtown Cortland.

Andrew Pilcher, 32, of 6 Main St., Cortland, was sentenced to four to 12 years in state prison —the maximum allowable sentence for second-degree manslaughter, a felony, which Pilcher pleaded guilty to in February.

Cortland County Judge Julie Campbell delivered the sentence — first hearing emotional statements from Grant’s loved ones and Pilcher himself.

Pilcher stabbed Grant, 28, of 10 Woodruff St., Cortland, once in the chest about 2:15 a.m. on Aug. 29 in a pocket park between the Community Restaurant, 10 Main St., and Pawn Boss, 16 Main St. in Cortland. Both men had been drinking and there was some video footage of the events leading up to the stabbing.

The wound was 5 inches deep, caused by a knife with a 4-inch blade, District Attorney Patrick Perfetti said in a telephone interview after court.

Pilcher later tried to conceal what he did, hiding the weapon, said Campbell, a fact the judge said she could not ignore.

The plea deal that was accepted in February was arrived at after prosecutors considered all the ramifications and trauma a trial would have on the victim’s loved ones, explained Campbell in court.

But Grant’s family was not pleased with the plea deal, saying in court they were blindsided by the February deal.

In reaching the plea deal, Perfetti said his prosecutors considered the burden of proof that they had to rise to and the risk a jury trial could result in a mistrial with a hung jury.

First-degree manslaughter applies to cases in which someone intends to cause injury, not intending to kill the person, but the injury results in death, said Perfetti. Manslaughter in the second degree is when someone recklessly causes the death of another, he said.

Second-degree manslaughter is legally considered a non-violent offense, which can open Pilcher up for various job-training programs in prison and also placement in a lessthan- maximum-security facility, Perfetti said.

Prior to the sentencing, four of Grant’s loved ones and Pilcher himself addressed the packed courtroom during the proceedings in the Cortland County Courthouse.

“Part of me died on Aug. 29, 2018,” said Cyndie Eaton, Grant’s mother, who visibly shook and cried during her address to the court. “I can’t go through one day without the vision of my son lying in a casket going through my head — knowing I will never again be able to hug him, or hear his voice or see him smile.”

When it was his turn to give comment, Pilcher turned toward Grant’s family.

“No amount of words can ever express how sorry I am,” Pilcher told them. “I take full responsibility for my actions, I was drinking too much, and it’s just devastating.”

Pilcher also said he is not a violent person and he wishes he could switch roles with Grant, noting that Grant has left behind children.

Besides Eaton, Grant’s sister Isabella Terrazas, stepfather, Joe Terrazas and girlfriend Tami Nickerson spoke calling for the maximum sentence, often noting that Grant’s three children are now left to grow up without a father.

Pilcher said he felt “extremely sorry” for that, adding he has no children of his own.

But the words did not resonate with Joe Terrazas, who said after the court appearance that he felt it was a weak apology.

“I felt like his comments were played out to minimize the sentencing, to look better for parole,” Terrazas said.

And Terrazas was not happy with the sentence either.

“I think obviously human life is worth more than that, a drug charge carries a higher sentence,” he said.

Eaton said she was “extremely disturbed” by the plea and the sentencing.

“Mr. Pilcher will walk out of prison possibly in less than 12 years, while my grandchildren are forced to grow up without a father,” she said. “He got a 12-year sentence cause of his actions, giving us a life sentence.”